Thanks to an hour-and-a-half commute each weekday, I listen to a lot of audiobooks. Here are my picks for the cream of the 2008 crop. — Review by Colette Bancroft, Times book editor
When Will There Be Good News? | (Hachette Audio) by Kate Atkinson, read by Ellen Archer
This is one of my favorite books of the year, a smartly suspenseful literary thriller populated by irresistible characters like Joanna, a lovely young doctor with a terrible past; Reggie, the fiercely devoted, brilliant teenage nanny of Joanna's baby son; Louise, a jaded cop; and of course Jackson Brodie, the connoisseur of coincidence who has appeared in two of Atkinson's previous novels. Audie Award winner Archer gives an absolutely stellar performance — I could listen to her rendering of Reggie's Edinburgh burr all day.
Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do | (Random House Audio) by Tom Vanderbilt, read by David Slavin
Science writer Vanderbilt takes a fascinating, often counterintuitive look at what we do behind the wheel, and Slavin gives the book a crisp, often wryly funny reading. It's odd, though, to nod at the passages about the huge danger of multitasking while driving (Shut off that cell phone! I'm serious!) while you're . . . multitasking by listening to the book.
Supreme Courtship | (Hachette Audio) by Christopher Buckley, read by Anne Heche
Buckley is in sharp satirical form with this nicely observed novel about Pepper Cartwright, a sassy judge from Texas who stars in a top-rated TV reality show — until she ends up on the Supreme Court. Heche (Men in Trees) does a splendid job with the voices of everyone from presidential counsel and "mandarin in chief" Graydon Clenndennynn to Pepper's tobacco-spitting lawman grandpa, and the plot hangs together better than the one in Buckley's last book, Boomsday.
The Silver Swan | (Macmillan Audio) by Benjamin Black, read by Timothy Dalton
Black is the crime-novel pen name of Man Booker Prize winner John Banville, and this ominous thriller, set in Dublin in the 1950s, is a sequel to his bestseller Christine Falls, with sardonic pathologist Garret Quirke back digging into ugly secrets, including his own. Dalton, an English actor who has done everything from Shakespeare to James Bond, gives a gritty, growling reading that will practically make you smell the rain on the dark Dublin streets.